In 1988, John Phillips first stepped through the doors of 301 N. Curry Pike as a hopeful 20-something. Work at GE was work you could retire from, so he spent the next three decades learning every inch of the plant’s nearly 1 million square feet. He graduated from his spot on the assembly line to lay hands on the life support systems that kept the manufacturing powerhouse humming. Tending to the GE Appliances plant became his life’s work, and it was good work with good people.
After a series of layoffs, reduced shifts and near closures, the GE Appliances plant shut down its assembly line for the last time on Aug. 26, 2016. Phillips was there the day workers cut away parts of the building in order to remove the machinery, including some that had been running since the Franklin Manufacturing days.
“They tore that place to pieces,” Phillips said. “That was hard to watch. There was no pride in the way they were taking stuff out.”
In November 2017, Cook Group purchased the 70-acre plant for $6.5 million. The Bloomington-based medical device manufacturing company is working to merge the property with an adjacent 30-acre parcel to act as an expansion of Cook’s nearby headquarters.
“We knew we were buying the shell of a building,” said Brent Conner, vice president of Cook Property Inc. “Some of the pipes are over 50 years old. You don’t want to build a state-of-the-art facility, set it up, and then lose it because of a 50-year-old pipe. We’re trying to figure out what the steps are so we don’t make a million-dollar mistake.”